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2012 Doggett Prize Winner - Woodruff T. Sullivan, III

Woodruff T. Sullivan, III Awarded the 2012 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize

by Thomas Hockey and Sara J. Schechner

The Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society is pleased to announce that Dr. Woodruff T. Sullivan, III will be the eighth recipient of the LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy. The Prize is awarded biennially to an individual whose long-term efforts and lifetime achievements have had significant impact on the field of the history of astronomy. The 2012 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize is presented to Professor Sullivan in recognition of his research, writing, teaching, and leadership in the history of astronomy community.

Woody Sullivan’s passion has been the history of radio astronomy, which he has pursued for nearly 40 years. His first book was a compilation of Classics in Radio Astronomy (1982), which brought together seminal papers published between 1896 and 1954 with commentary. This was followed by The Early Years of Radio Astronomy (1984), a collection of essays, and most recently, Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy (2009), a detailed and magisterial study of the subject from an intellectual, technical, and social point of view through the 1950s.

In preparation of these works, Woody interviewed some 250 early radio astronomers and gathered original documents, creating an archive for use by future historians. Tapes and transcripts of the interviews already have been transferred to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, which has agreed to digitize them and preserve them along with Woody's other materials. He also has been active in promoting the preservation of important personal papers of radio astronomers — including Martin Ryle, Edward Appleton, Frank Kerr, and the CSIRO Radiophysics Division in Sydney — as well as the historical radio receivers and antennas used by radio astronomers. He has coordinated these efforts through AAS and IAU Working Groups.

Woody’s efforts to share not only the products of his historical research, but also the primary sources themselves, is but one important, multifaceted, and compounded example of his service to the history-of-astronomy community.

Woody was a founding member and organizer of HAD, circa 1980, a HAD Committee member (1989-1991), and Vice Chair and Chair of the Division (1993-1997). He has organized 10 special HAD meeting sessions over the years and delivered numerous papers.

Woody served on the organizing committee of IAU Commission 41 (circa 1986-1993), too. Since then he has organized about five special C41 sessions.

A longtime member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s History Committee, Woody chaired it in 1986-1992. He was instrumental in organizing the ASP Centennial program in 1989.

A prominent member and local organizer of two annual meetings for the North American Sundial Society, Woody’s historical and astronomical perspectives have informed his talks and public sundial installations, including his leadership in the design and fabrication of the NASA Mars Rover sundial (with Bill Nye).

Lastly, Woody’s historical knowledge is incorporated into his college and graduate courses in astronomy and astrobiology and into the textbook he recently edited, Planets and Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology (2007), which integrates historical, philosophical, and ethical issues with scientific matters. For the History Department at the University of Washington, he offers a course on "The History of Physics and Astronomy, 1800-1940." Through such pedagogy, Woody Sullivan has introduced the history of astronomy to many students and made vital space for the subject within the curriculum.

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